Chirikof Island is located in the Gulf of Alaska approximately 80 miles (130 km) southwest of Kodiak Island. The seas around Chirikof are treacherous and the island has a history of shipwrecks. There is archeological evidence for several thousand years of human habitation. Alutiiqs of the area call the island Ukamok for the ground squirrels that were probably introduced in the prehistoric era. The first European to document a sighting of the island was Vitus Bering, captain of the St. Peter, who sailed from Kamchatka, Russia accompanied by Alexei Chirikov, captain of the St. Paul. The log of the St. Peter recorded a sighting of the island on August 2, 1741. In 1794, George Vancouver renamed the island Chirikof, to acknowledge the original discoverers.
During the Russian period (1740s to 1867) a population of 60-100 villagers lived a subsistence life supported at first by the sea otter fur trade, and later by fox farming and cattle ranching. The villagers were Alutiiq, Tlingit, Russian and western Europeans. They worshiped in a small Russian orthodox church, but in 1870 the village was abandoned soon after the only priest was recalled to Kodiak. In 1980, the island became part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The only inhabitants now are a herd of perhaps 700-800 feral cattle that have become the subject of an ongoing management controversy. Read more here and here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore more of Chirikof Island.